Tuesday, September 26, 2006

So, um...

Thanks, Lum. Hi, all you Broken Toys folks! We'll try to be entertaining.

The Vocal Minority II

As Nomad points out, the "vocal minority" argument can and has been used as an excuse not to take action on issues of legitimate (and noisy) concern by a given game community. However, this is also a perception that is sometimes fostered by people within Community Relations itself.

Too often, a CM becomes overly concerned with his/her relationships internally -- with producers, other managers, execs, etc. -- and loses track of the primary area of responsibility for the position. Of course, that "primary responsibility" is a matter of some debate, but I think that most people agree that the liaison function of the CM position, between company and customers, is at least one of the core functions of any Community Relations effort.

So, I have seen CM's themselves buying into the fallacious (in my opinion) "Vocal Minority" argument as a way to either ingratiate themselves with co-workers or to avoid confrontation about perceptions within the company versus customer perceptions. Additionally, the liaison function of a CM can be grueling, and there is always the temptation to slip out from under it and to invent other tangential areas of responsibility. However, in doing so, a CM undermines one of the primary reasons for their existence.

Engagement with paying customers is crucial for almost any industry, be it real estate or computer games. But it can be hard. And sometimes even expensive. But there is a competitive advantage there. The "Vocal Minority" meme is too often used as an excuse to avoid the work and expense. And sadly, this meme is sometime championed by Community professionals themselves.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"The Vocal Minority"

This phrase is heard pretty often when talking about community management, particularly when discussing forums. It's not untrue - statistically, active posters on forums are generally a small subset of the playerbase. They also tend to represent the powergamers and the social butterflies - not necessarily your average player. So calling them a "vocal minority" is fairly accurate.

It's also toxic as hell.

The phrase is generally used by producers and execs who don't want to take seriously the feedback the CM is presenting. It's condescending, dismissive, and ultimately potentially disastrous. It's one thing to look realistically at forum feedback as compared to login polls, in-game metrics, and other forms of feedback, but it's quite another when forums are the only form of feedback you have - which is, sadly, often the case.

As m'lord Calandryll put it at a recent AGC panel, your "vocal minority" is your canary in the coal mine - if you ignore it when something goes wrong, instead of that one bird dropping dead, it will be everyone.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My New Motto

Today, we take over the forums...